Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013: Septic Man

Any time a movie opens with a woman violently vomiting and defecating simultaneously in a room literally painted with shit and other unidentifiable grime, and then proceeds to get even more disgusting, you should probably be prepared not to be eating for a few hours after the credits roll. Such is the case with Septic Man, which comes from the twisted minds of Pontypool writer Anthony Burgess and Jesse T Cook, the director of Monster Brawl. I was glad to see one of my fellow audience members hurriedly finishing her unfortunate-looking poutine before this scene popped up onscreen, or I might've lost my lunch as well.

Set in Collingwood, Ontario during an e-coli scare which prompts a complete evacuation of the town (at the behest of the mayor, played in the most surreal fashion by Watchmen and Pontypool's Stephen McHattie), sewage serviceman Jack (Jason David Brown) is tasked by a shady character named Prosser (Hard Core Logo's Julian Richings) with staying behind in town and finding the source of the contamination. Leaving his pregnant wife to evacuate — no pun intended — Jeff traces the contamination to a seemingly-abandoned treatment plant where he is trapped in a containment tank with several dead bodies and a whole lot of shit.

It'd be easy for a movie like this to delve into comedy and puns, but Septic Man is played entirely straight and the surreal, largely-unexplained horrors that befall Jack are always frightening and completely stomach-turning. Barely a scene goes by in the plant without someone vomiting, shitting, or bleeding (often all three) and the gross-out level just keeps topping itself. Character motivations remain entirely unclear when the film wraps, and this will either infuriate you as a viewer, or if you're like me, leave you wanting more. The whole thing plays out like a combination of Stephen King's Night Shift and Christopher Smith's amazing Creep, with gore, makeup effects, and thematic elements that are Toxic Avenger as fuck.

I'm glad to see Cook mature as a director after what this reviewer considered a gigantic misstep that was Monster Brawl, a film whose premise and pacing never worked for me, and this maturity as a filmmaker clearly kept the somewhat erratic writing of Burgess well under control while letting it loose at just the right times. Septic Man is a great gross-out story with some very clever set pieces and a really stunning performance from an often lone Jason David Brown, evoking a kind of shit-stained Castaway or Moon. Definitely one to surprise your friends with, preferably over a hearty bowl of beef stew or chocolate pudding.


The 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 17th to 25th. You can find ticket and lineup information at the official site here.

Photo: Jason David Brown explores the darker side of fecal matter in Septic Man, a movie about which you have just read a review.

This review was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on, the CBC Street Level Blog,, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.


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